One of the best things about Belfast is its nightlife – the compact city offers a great variety of pubs and clubs for visitors to choose from (though visiting more than one is easy enough). But not all clubs are created equal, so here is our list of the very finest nights out in Belfast. One thing to be wary of: Northern Ireland’s licensing laws mean that clubs close at 1am, earlier than in the rest of the UK, though some clubs have entertainment licenses that allow them to stay open until 3am.
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Limelight is one of Belfast’s most iconic and enduring fixtures, and 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the club’s opening, testament to the venue’s staying power. The complex consists of two club rooms, appropriately named Limelight 1 and Limelight 2, which are connected by Katy’s Bar. Limelight 1 is the larger of the two, playing the standard club tunes, while Limelight 2 plays rock and metal for people who want a heavier night. The Limelight complex also hosts gigs, so be sure to check what’s on before planning a night out.
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Though a newer entry to Belfast’s club scene, ALIBI is still a popular one. Its ground floor is open during the days, offering spirits, cocktails and food, and the upstairs club opens at night. As well as the two indoor floors, there is a three-tiered smoking terrace that’s especially pleasant on warm nights. ALIBI host various club nights throughout the week ranging from generous drinks promos on Mondays to live fire-breathing performances on Fridays and Saturdays.
The life-size statue of Lenin above the entrance makes Kremlin hard to miss. Opened in 1999, it was the first gay venue in Northern Ireland that was genuinely gay-owned and managed, and it continues to be one of the most popular gay venues in Ireland. It’s split into three separate areas: Tsar, the cocktail lounge; Long Bar, a disco bar; and Red Square, which is the main hub, a two-level club regularly hosting DJs and live acts.
Ollie’s is a more upscale option attached to (and beneath) Belfast’s Merchant Hotel. Located in catacombs that were previously used as bank vaults, the space is subdivided into various different spaces, making the club feel intimate even though it has a capacity of 500. Door staff are a little more selective here than in other clubs, so take the opportunity to dress up a little.
Thompsons is absolutely integral to the fabric of Belfast’s nightlife, definitely somewhere to go rather than stumble upon. Tucked down its own alley, a stone’s throw from City Hall, it attracts people from all walks of life but especially music lovers, with dance and EDM being particular favourites. Thompsons has been open for 20 years, and is usually open every night, so it’s clearly doing something right.
Lavery’s is Belfast’s oldest family-owned pub and is one of the most popular bars in Belfast, bar none. Its attached craft bar, Woodworkers, is one of the trendiest spots in the city, while the original Lavery’s bar remains a classic. On Friday nights, though, the pool tables on the upper floor are moved away, clearing the way for dancing and revelry. The music is great, the space is large, and if need be, patrons can always retreat to either of the bars downstairs.
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